In all the revelations pouring out of the US Church, largely concerning the widespread corruption of seminarians and young priests by older members of the clergy, one thing that is notably absent is any mention of Our Lady.
Catholics know instinctively – even if they cannot explain it theologically – that to love Mary is the best and most effective safeguard against falling into serious sin. Our Lady has constantly requested that we say the rosary: what a different state the US Church would be in, if everyone had heeded this request.
These thoughts have been occasioned by reading Fatima: At the Heart of the Church by Fr Serafino Lanzetta, an Italian priest currently serving the parish of Gosport in the diocese of Portsmouth. Unlike other recent books on Fatima, published to coincide with the centenary of her apparitions at Fatima in 1917, Fr Lanzetta’s book concentrates on one crucial aspect: Our Lady’s words to the three shepherd children that “God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.”
The Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is recognised as the day after the great Feast of the Sacred Heart and is always celebrated on the Saturday following the second Sunday after Pentecost; this year it fell on June 9. But it is not universally celebrated as the highly significant feast that it truly is. That is, I think, because although the Church has officially given its imprimatur to the apparitions of Fatima, and several popes have spoken about the profound theology of the Fatima revelations, it has not properly been incorporated into the wider “sensus fidelium”.
By this I mean it has not been widely preached about, written about, understood, or had regular, countrywide diocesan pilgrimages organised – in contrast to the popular and much-loved apparitions at Lourdes. Lourdes is one of my favourite shrines – yet it is obvious to anyone who has reflected on them, that the teachings of Our Lady at Fatima are a development on a deeper, richer and more complex plane of theology than those given to St Bernadette at Lourdes.
Fr Lanzetta emphasises above all that God (not a misplaced and excessive Mariolatry) “wants to establish devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary”. Put simply, Mary’s Heart is the one closest to the Heart of her Son and therefore the surest refuge for the salvation of souls, i.e. for us as individuals, as sinners and as members of the Church.
Fr Lanzetta alludes indirectly to the current ills of society and the Church, “in which there are so many doctrinal and disciplinary deviations”. His remedy is straightforward: “In the Immaculate Heart of Mary it is possible to contemplate what God had originally created for each person, what each person must once again reach as their end: a heart always directed towards God.”
He emphasises: “Whoever does Mary’s will…does the will of God…and this is the will of God manifested at Fatima for our time: to consecrate oneself to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” Consecration can involve a formal ritual; but it also means a prayerful surrender of one’s heart, one’s hopes and one’s sorrows to Our Lady. This is what the US hierarchy, from seminarians and cardinals now need to do – alongside penitence, sackcloth and ashes.